For it is by grace you have been saved...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Book Review: The Truth About You

Well, my career as a book reviewer may prove to be a very short one indeed. Thomas Nelson Publishers offered to send me the occasional book for free if I would read them and post reviews of them. Sounded like a good deal, but I’m afraid the first choice of books may prove to be the end of this endeavor.

English motivational speaker and author Marcus Buckingham’s The Truth About You, in my opinion, is the epitome of what is wrong with the Christian publishing market. It is a secular, humanistic, self-help, feel good approach to life and success that is in most cases in direct opposition to biblical principles. How’s that for an opening line?

Not that it’s all bad. This book is not just a book: it’s an experience. It comes complete with a 20 minute video, a separate “ReMemo” pad (for tracking “strengths” and “weaknesses”), and a variety of interactive exercises. Nice package. But the content is still more psycho-babble than anything.

The main themes center on finding your strengths, which are your interests, your ideas of what makes you feel good, fulfilling your needs, etc. To find those strengths, you are told to complete the statement, “I feel strong when…” The biblical response to that is…”when I am weak.”

For the Christian, it’s not about me, what makes me feel good, etc. It’s to be about Christ, growing in His image and likeness, serving for His glory, and allowing His strength to be seen in my weakness. This is the exact opposite of Buckingham’s statement that “as we grow, we become more and more of who we already are.” God tells us to die to self and become like Christ.

Don’t get me wrong. Buckingham has something in the idea of a group of folks all doing what they do best. But there is too much focus on self and self-reliance here. The biblical perspective on this is that this group is the result of God’s gifting, not forcing our own “strengths” on others.

I know this is longer than the 200 words Nelson asked for, but I’m trying to be as brief as possible. I realize this is a business text, not a theology text. But the point is that a “Christian” publisher ought to be focused on those things that are biblically based, regardless of the genre. If we want to write about success, we should be doing it from a biblical definition of success and so on.

Sadly, so much of Christian publishing these days is more focused on the feel-good psychology and self-centered individualism so prominent in our culture than on a solid biblical worldview. For all its nice packaging, this book is just the case in point for that problem.

12 comments:

Applied Christianity said...

Thanks for the warning on the book. I truly dislike these kinds of books. I thought your review was really good and well thought out. And hey, they didn't say the reviews had to be positive.

Elizabeth M Thompson said...

I am glad you posted your opinion of this book. It has helped me decide that maybe I don't need to order it.

Scott said...

Elizabeth,
It certainly isn't my intention to interfere with Mr. Buckingham's book sales. For a secular motivational book, I suppose it's quite good. He seems to have had a great deal of "success." My concern is just the inclusion of this kind of book on the "Christian" shelves. Is this the success we're after? Is it really all about me? Or is it about God? I'm sure discerning readers may read through this and find the one or two positive elements, so feel free. (Can you tell I feel just a little guilty about being so negative in my first review?!)

Michael S. Hyatt said...

Scott,

Thanks for your review. I appreciate your honest assessment. Even negative reviews are helpful to us as we seek to be faithful to what God has called us to do. I will make sure the specific publisher at Thomas Nelson sees this.

Best,

Mike Hyatt

Anne said...

Scott,

Isn't it refreshing that Mike Hyatt is concerned about this and will act on his concern? I too am a TN blogger, and specifically didn't choose that book to review because it looked like a lot of work to read and review! No I'm really glad I didn't choose it. I agree with you wholeheartedly on the conformity to Christ vs conformity to the world to succeed. Great review. I'm looking forward to more honest reviews from you. My upcoming review will be about Lynn Spears' book (haven't received yet).

C3POJones said...

Scott -
While I have not as of yet read this book, I couldn't agree more on your assessment of what is currently wrong with the Christian publishing business. I'm currently working on a novel for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, yeah it's in November) that follows the journey of eight college freshmen who might be labeled as big time sinners. Many of them are addicts of some kind and yet grace finds them all. It's not finished yet and I doubt it will be picked up by any Christian Publishers due to its in your face nature, but it will be entitled "Addiction's Weight, Grace's Alleviation" if you'd care to take a look.
Thanks for your review and your honesty about the lack of grace in "Christian" books these days.
In Christ,
Andrew Jones

Eric S. Mueller said...

Thanks for the review. I'm a Thomas Nelson Book Review Blogger also. I requested the Chronological Study Bible just before "The Truth About You" was posted. I figured I'd get to it next if it's still around. Other than the psychobabble, is there any useful information in the book?

I can't say I'm fond of books that promise information and turn out to be regurgitated fluff. My reading list gets longer and longer, and I just don't have time for fluff anymore.

Richard Mabry said...

Scott,
Thanks for having the courage to post an honest review. I was directed to your blog through a post of Michael Hyatt's on his Twitter account, and was glad to see that he didn't just immediately become defensive, instead promising to make sure the right people at Nelson saw your comments. I take that as a positive.
As a Christian writer, I was hesitant to take Mike up on his offer of books for review, fearing that my honesty would hurt my reputation with editors and publishers. Nevertheless, I've read two Nelson books, reviewed them both--including the good and the bad I saw in them--and haven't had any negative feedback...yet.
Glad to find your blog. I'll be back.

Sarah M. said...

Thank you for your refreshing comments. I often feel like I must be the only one with those sentiments toward Christian publishing. I am also a Thomas Nelson Book Review Blogger. I am very thankful that I did not choose this one. I might have to stick to the children's books. :)

Scott said...

Wow, a guy doesn't look at his blog for 24 hours and the comments come rollin' in.

I, too, am thankful that Mr. Hyatt received all this so graciously. How very refreshing.

And thanks to all who made encouraging comments. Being new at this, I wasn't sure what to expect. I look forward to tracking down all your blogs and reviews in the coming days.

It's nice to hear so many share the concern that we maintain a biblical standard in all this.

Thank you all.

(I'm so shocked to have this many people reading my blog. I thought it was only my kids and my mom!)

Vicki said...

Found your blog via Michael Hyatt's twitter note...and glad I did. Thanks for your honest book review. Too many folks think they're obligated to write a positive review when what's needed are both the pros & cons. Much of the material I've stumbled across lately seems grossly man-centered rather than Christ-centered, and I can't, in good faith, spend my time or money on it.

But I'm blessed to see that these book reviews aren't being brushed off by Thomas Nelson. (I'm a Nelson book reviewer, too). Thanks for taking precious time to read and review this book.

Len said...

Amen and Amen. Great review. Where is the book on "Spiritual Weakness Inventories"---that would be the Christian counterpoint. Plus: tell me what your virtues are, and I'll tell you your vices. Who can forget "The Voice" speaking to Mother Teresa: “You are I know the most incapable person----weak and sinful but just because you are that----I want to use You for My glory. Wilt thou refuse?”